About Me

Tired of the mundane and craving an adventure, on Saturday, May 22nd, 2010, I embarked on the ultimate American road trip through all fifty states. After nearly a year and a half on the road, on a budget of less than 50 bucks a day, this is my story...

Nevada Chapter 3: Vegas, Baby!

Thursday, June 9th
This morning around 10:15 I entered Nevada from Death Valley National Park.  At a little before 1pm I turned off at the sign for Big Dunes in the small town of Amargosa.  A took the gravel road a few miles then made a u-turn after seeing a "sign" (marker indicated by a small pile of rocks, lol) for the entrance.  I must have gotten just a quarter of a mile or so in, before whatever gravel of rocks below my car disappeared and in an instant turned to pure sand.  I was unable to maneuver my car to get out, and there I was, stuck in the middle of the host desert...

I called AAA - "Sorry," we can't assist 100 feet past any paved road."  Umm, they sure as hell didn't mention that when I signed up.  Then I called the area's one and only tow service company.  "Sorry, the truck's in the shop."  Are you kidding me?!  Then I called the County Sheriff's Office, that got me in touch with a chick who does tows on the side.  Delesa I think her name was?  They sheriff's office said the usual guy wasn't available, but that they've used this girl before, and that she charges $200.  Yikes!  So Delesa gave me a call and started hustling me, first telling me it would be at least $200, more like $250 because gas is expensive (though she's located only 11 miles from where I was stuck) and possibly $300.  Basically, she was just going to see how she felt after towing me, and seeing how I had no other options, I went along with it.  She showed up, a very masculine woman with a tank top showing off her several black tattoos, and had a young, pregnant girl with her to help out.  After a couple tries with the chain pulling my vehicle and some more digging she got me out.  I followed the younger girl to the bank about 10 miles or so away (the bank was named "Bank" to give you an idea of how small of a town we're talking about, lol) and we sealed the deal for $250.  Lesson learned :/

I got into Vegas around 4pm, my first stop being the Visitor/Convention Center for information on where to stay and what to do.  I checked out a couple hostels just down the street from one another on Las Vegas Blvd just up from "The Strip," and chose "Sin City Hostel," where I got a clean, shared dorm room for only $14/night.  I blogged for a while and then had a free BBQ dinner the hostel provided, and chatted with Craig - an older, friendly, talkative guy who's recently divorced and is stopping in Vegas for a few days of fun on his way to moving to Los Angeles from New York to live with friends, and I chatted with with George - a nice guy from Japan, who learned English all on his own without formal education, in hopes of marrying an American or European girl, heh heh.

After dinner I got acquainted and goofed around with some of my other fellow hostelers from England.

Friday, June 10th
Today's activities/visits while exploring "The Strip" included:
Mini indoor rainforest at the Mirage
The Forum Shops at Caesar's Palace (awesome ambiance, and taking the spiral escalator was cool!), the Kush and Peter Lik art galleries, ornate fountains and daytime sky murals on the ceilings of the kitschy, Roman-esque casino (cool!)
The luxurious Wynn Hotel & Casino - onsite Maserati/Ferrari dealership, and the best damn gourmet buffet (with $40 price tag to match, but worth it)
Fountain Show at the Bellagio
Volcano Show at the Mirage
Flamingo Habitat at Flamingo Hotel & Casino
"Sirens of TI" Show at Treasure Island - SO CHEESY, and pretty risque for a street performance
Saturday, June 11th
Today's activities/visits while exploring "The Strip" included:
African Acrobats at Circus Circus - Contortion, human pyramid building, and the most impressive limbo-ing I've ever seen (with a really bad opening act from a clown  - I really felt bad for the guy)

Rubbed the butts on the "Crazy Girls" statue at the Riviera (for luck, lol)

Admired in awe, the whimsical Conservatory at the Bellagio - Like a scene from "Alice in Wonderland"

"Sense of Place" exhibit at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art - "more than 30 artworks ranging from paintings, photographs and video installation that contrast and compare both approach and expressionism in landscape art. From Claude Monet's impressionistic haystacks painted in 1885 to Vik Muniz's carefully rendered pigment prints created in 2006, precise representational paintings are placed alongside austere abstract works in order to reveal how landscape has been portrayed by artists throughout history."

Sipped cocktails ("Skinny Bitch" [Yuck] and Perfect Pear [delicious]) and tried the Seared Tuna on Seaweed Salad and Calamari dish (yum!) at Blue Martini's [voted Best!] happy hour

Cirque Du Soleil's "O" at the Bellagio - "An aquatic masterpiece of surrealism and theatrical romance," and pretty much the most amazing thing I've ever seen on a stage (well, besides Lion King on Broadway in high school, heh heh)

The lights of Bellagio's wonderful conservatory at night

Fountain Show at the Bellagio

The opulent, multi-storied, shimmery chandelier at the Cosmopolitan
Sunday, June 12th
This morning I drove out about 35 miles west of Vegas to nearby Mount CharlestonThe scenic byways of Highways 157, 180, and 158 boasted beautiful mountain views amidst the ponderosa pines.  I got a quite expectant view of a couple in the middle of something (ahem) on the short trail of the Desert Overlook (yikes!), and reached my goal of hugging the oldest single living organism known, the bristlecone pine, which can live up to nearly 5,000 years old!

Afterward I headed over to Red Rock Canyon.  I checked out the Visitor Center's great outdoor exhibit (like a small science museum outside) describing the land, then I did the wonderful 13-mile one-way scenic loop drive through the unique desert landscape and viewpoints/overlooks, including a sandstone quarry and petroglyphs.

After I got back to Vegas, I checked out :
The infamous "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada" sign

Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, its funky House of Blues venue, and Burger Bar, which features a $60 "Rossini" burger:"Kobe beef, sautéed foie gras, shaved truffles, on onion bun.  Named after a XIX th century Italian composer whose love for fine food was legendary. The preparation always includes foie gras, truffles and a rich brown sauce, in this case, Black Perigord Truffle."

The high ceiling inside the pyramid and Egyptian statues at the Luxor Hotel & Casino, where I met a friendly employee named Jose, who I got acquainted with over a margarita at a festive Mexican bar and grill at Mandalay Bay

Lion Habitat at MGM Grand (includes a cute little cub!) 

"I Lost My M in Vegas" interactive 3-D movie at 4-story M&Ms World

Costumes and history at Hard Rock Cafe
The Fremont Street Experience, a "project that blends vintage Las Vegas with high tech wonderment, live entertainment and more to create an attraction that rivals the famed Vegas Strip."  I explored the shops, casinos, street performers (lookalikes including Michael Jackson, Prince, Barry Manilow, and 80's rock music tribute bands, all underneath the " world's largest screen," via the Viva Vision canopy and light show. The canopy towers 90 feet above the ground and spans the length of five football fields. Featuring more than 12 million LED modules displaying up to 16.7 million color combinations with a 555,000-watt sound system!"  I watched "A Tribute to Queen," where I listened to "We Will Rock You" and "We are the Champions" while admiring the stunning graphics above, and "KISS Over Vegas," a tribute to the legendary foursome with hits like "Lick it Up," "Shout it out Loud" and "Rock 'n' Roll All Night."

Next I went up to the top of the Stratosphere - "Jutting 1,149 feet into the Vegas skyline, the iconic Stratosphere Tower is the tallest freestanding observation tower in the United States and one of the most exciting attractions among Las Vegas Strip hotels. Our magnificent panoramic view of the shimmering Las Vegas Strip from our hotel is not only record-setting because of its height. It also houses the world’s highest thrill rides," of which I went on all 3:

X-Scream - "A giant teeter-totter that propels you headfirst, 27 feet over the edge of the tower, 866 feet above the ground!"  You won't find more authentic eagle-eye views like this, lol

Insanity - "A massive mechanical arm extending out 64 feet over the edge of the Stratosphere Tower at a height of over 900 feet, this Vegas ride will spin you in the open air at speeds of up to three 'G's, and you'll be propelled up to an angle of 70 degrees, which will tilt your body into one position — straight down!"

Big Shot - "You'll be shot 160 feet in the air at 45 miles per hour and in a matter of seconds be catapulted from the 921-foot high platform up the Tower's mast to a height of 1,081 feet and down again. Before you catch your breath, you'll be shot back up again at forces unmatched by other Vegas thrill parks."
Monday, June 13th
Today I checked out the Venetian's beautiful gondola-filled canals.  "Modeled after authentic Venetian gondolas, there are several gondolas on the canal and in the lagoon at any given time.  The indoor gondolas make their way beneath bridges and below the quaint shops and cafés that line the canal running through the Grand Canal Shoppes, and architecture inspired by Venice landmarks, and with eloquent singing of the gondoliers, you'll feel as if you have truly been transported to Italy."  The entertaining moving statues and operatic performances were noteworthy as well.

I went from Italy to France in only a short walk to Paris Hotel & Casino just down the street (I love Vegas), where I opted into the 7 Buffets in 24 Hours deal, starting with Le Village Buffet, which compared to The Buffet at the Wynn, was pretty disappointing, except the village-like ambiance in the "Town Square" where they sat me.

Next I went to Carnival World Buffet at Rio Hotel & Casino.  Stations with cuisines from different parts of the world was delicious.

Then I went up to the 11th story of the Eiffel Tower Restaurant for a good view of the strip and the Bellagio's Fountain Show.

Next I went to the top of the Eiffel Tower, a 1/2-size to scale replica of the original, where at the little observation deck I took in breathtaking views at 460 feet above the heart of the Strip - this boasted even better views than at the top of the Stratosphere in my opinion, as this was right in the middle of it all, closer to the action, and also had unparalleled views of the Fountain Show at the Bellagio. 

Tuesday, June 14th
View f/ Top of Eiffel Tower
This morning I kept up the buffet theme, making sure to get my money's worth of the 7 buffets/24-hour deal.  I went to:
Spice Market Buffet at Planet Hollywood (My rating = 3 of 5 stars)
Paradise Garden Buffet at the Flamingo (My rating = 3 of 5 stars)
Emperor's Buffet at Imperial Palace (My rating = 2 of 5 stars)
Flavors Buffet at Harrah's (My rating = 3 of 5 stars)
Lago Buffet Caesar's Palace (My rating = 4 of 5 stars)
After nearly dying at the end of each one and completing all 7 buffets in 24 hours, I treated myself to a few hours of fun in the sun and playing in the pool at Caesar's Palace. 

Then I rode the roller-coaster at New York New York with a new acquaintance I got chatting with, Dave from Dublin, who is in town for wedding.

I ended the night with a walk around the urban Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino, and grabbing at bite at Blondies Sports Bar & Grill (Garlic Bread Balls - olled dough, deep fried and tossed in a garlic butter sauce topped with parmesan and served with marinara sauce).

Wednesday, June 15th
Today I blogged, played poker with my fellow hostelers, and went to Krave, a small gay nightclub.  Nothing special, but it was nice to experience some of the nightlife.

Thursday, June 16th
Today looked a lot like yesterday, except I went to the clubs with Daniel, a German guy around my age.  We went to Krave, because we could get in free (I was on a guest list for the first time ever, lol)He was a good sport (never been to a gay bar before), encouraging us not to leave until I worked up the courage to talk to some guys, and he was even able to admit that the Latino go-go dancer was in great shape :)

Fountain Show f/ Eiffel Tower
Next we went  to his kind of club where he could meet girls.  We tried Marquee in the Cosmopolitan, but they had a strict dress code which I didn't make the cut for, and they were closing anyway.  Then we got turned down again at Tao ($300 to enter, unless you're a hot girl or on the guest list), and finally forgo-ed  the trendy, superficial clubs (hallelujah!) for a more laid back local atmosphere at Rockhouse, where we had a couple beers and I let all my cares slip away as I danced to the old school music.  We weren't quite done partying, so we attempted entry to an after-party club, but walked away from the $30 door charge.  I had never walked out of a club when it was daylight before - we got back to the hostel around 6:30am!

Friday, June 17th
Blogged, blogged, blogged.  Met Akihiro, a happy, enthusiastic 24 year-old guy from Japan.  He was giddy looking at my photos while I ate dinner with the wonderful Swiss couple that whipped up a yummy spaghetti dinner for the 3 of us.  All four of us and a bunch of the other hostelers paid $25 for a ride in a stretch limo down The Strip to the famous "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign, then up to Fremont Street for a pub crawl.  Other than breaking my $1 sandals (big loss, lol) I had a great time!

The next morning I dropped Akihiro off and I left "Sin City," heading to Valley of Fire State Park.

Misc Notes
Gas: $3.49 is the cheapest I saw, way down from $5.45-ish I saw around Death Valley National Park!

The constant snapping of call girl/strip club promotional cards the Hispanic people flick in your face along sidewalks of the strip will never be missed.

Free parking at all the hotels/casinos!

Lots of free shows and things to do.  I hardly gambled at all (only $5.00a casino gave it to me for joining the rewards club), filling my time with plenty of different things.


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